In China we were spoiled. Foreign movies were never dubbed over, and (due to the linguistic diversity across the country) even Chinese films were subtitled. In Bishkek – no such luck. Almost all foreign films – and shows on TV are dubbed, most often in monotone. While this is hilarious for about five minutes (below is a Turkish sob-drama our landlady adores that here is completely dubbed with a flat-sounding single male Russian voice, even in the scenes when the female characters are throwing tantrums) it really makes media near incomprehensible to non-native Russian speakers. After all, when learning a language, we look for voice cues to tell us what’s going on.
Furthermore, as I found with Chinese subtitles for foreign films in China, the dub/sub can actually differ quite a bit from the original script, giving it a different tilt, re-casting characters, or changing the tone of the movie altogether (or history, as happened with this pirated Russian-dubbed version of The Iron Lady that cast Margaret Thatcher as a “bloodthirsty, Hitler-admiring leader, whose fondest desire is to destroy the working class”). So who knows what you’re watching. In short, no, we’ve don’t frequent the Russian cinema’s of Kyrgyzstan’s capital.
But, ahoy! There’s Hope!
Late last year the Cinematica Theater in Cosmopark (on Karlomarx, about 2 blocks south of it’s intersection with Axunbaeva) started a Bishkek English Movie Club. About every three weeks they release a new film (unfortunately all big blockbusters with maximum explosions-per-minute) with the original soundtrack, sometimes with Russian subs, sometimes without. There is a listing online, but I’ve found that actual show times and release dates are…not always so accurate. Thus, if you want to check times and buy tickets your best bet is to actually go down to Cosmopark. Ticket prices are about 200-300 som, depending on time and whether the film is in 2D or 3D. Most English film showings are around 8pm. Unlike American cinemas, you do buy tickets for specific seats, so book early if you want more than two seats together.
Last month we went to see The Avengers, simply because we hadn’t gone to the cinema since we were last in Ankara and it was the only thing on show. The theater was packed: NGO and Embassy workers, Indian and Pakistani medical students, Peace Corps volunteers, some other people from the university and – a lot more than I though possible (where do all of these foreigners come from? Or maybe there are still a lot more US Army personnel in Bishkek than I thought…). But – Bang! Bang! Evil Russians! (how is it every action movie must now have Russian villains?) Giant Explosion to End It All!
This past Tuesday we had tickets for Mad Max: Fury Road. From the trailer I thought it was going to be Avenger-style awful. But it was wonderful. Not the most complicated plot, but everything (the costumes, the props, the scenery) was executed beautifully. Though the Russian-speaking villains did again make a token appearance (they’re riding the spiked cars in the screenshot).
Unfortunately the next few movies out seem to feature more explosions and earthquakes than plot:
And a side note: though the “Oscar Bar” on the second floor of the cinema offers popcorn and softdrinks and beer (first time I’ve ever seen beer in a movie theater… though then again the National Opera Theater has vodka and Kognac), the juice stand on the first floor has fantastic fresh-pressed juice.
Also, as mentioned before, Aroma Pizza outside the doors of Cosmopark makes great kebabs, just in case you want to get dinner before you catch a film.